Wooed by words, bookshelves, old dust jackets, and ballpoint pens, I arrived in Chicago two years ago from Oceanside, CA to pursue my MFA in nonfiction. I’ve been reading, writing, teaching, working, and collaborating with talented writers ever since. It’s my last year at Columbia and my last year blogging for Marginalia. Read along each week as I write about my graduate experience at Columbia and the Creative Writing – Nonfiction MFA program.
Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.
I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in writing and in teaching after taking an Intro to Creative Writing class with a great instructor during undergrad. The teacher had us write a “cento,” a poem that consists of bits and pieces of found text from other writers. Essentially, combining the fragments, you create a new fresh and somewhat original poem. I became obsessed with language and found texts after this experiment. Most of my writing background is based in literature and poetry. During my last semester of undergrad, I took a Nonfiction class with the same teacher mentioned earlier and read The Body: An Essay by Jenny Boully. Um, excuse me?! The title references the body of an essay that is omitted. The entire essay is made up of footnotes to a non-existent text. I had never seen anything like it and became obsessed with the lyric essay and in my own writing began to combine elements of my poetry background with my new-found interest in Nonfiction.
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
I chose Columbia, originally, because Jenny Boully teaches here. I wanted to learn from the person whose work had inspired me to begin writing Nonfiction. I was also very attracted to the city of Chicago, after visiting in February 2009, for the annual AWP Writing Conference. At the time, I wasn’t really sure about my writing, about actually applying to a program and spending the money to pursue writing. Let’s face it, writers generally don’t make a lot of money and nobody’s rushing to a Barnes and Noble to purchase some weird-hybrid-poetry-nonfiction “thing.” I took a year off from school after undergrad to figure out what I wanted to do and to work on a writing sample. When it came down to it, I just couldn’t shake the urge to write and teach. I applied to Columbia. I got in. I moved.
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
I find myself drawn to the bricks in this city and the cracks in the sidewalks. The architecture of the city is working its way into my writing. My most recent essay is a series of prose blocks that focuses on how buildings are built and how they decay through time, which I am blending with my own experiences in relationships and how they are built, destroyed and rebuilt. The writing is fragmented, physical and incorporates images of damaged buildings and bodies. It’s a pretty fresh project, only about ten pages right now, but I see it growing to something much larger.